Escape The Summer Heat With Cool Cocktails And Farm Fresh Dishes At The Merchant
The weather outside has been nothing but 3H nasty (hazy, hot and humid), so we were looking for a dark cave away from the summer gross. We found it – a savory little brasserie in the Financial District.
With a gentleman’s club feel (think riveted leather chairs, pinpoint chandeliers and dark woods rather than exotic dancers), The Merchant is heavy on the decor and the after-work crowd vibe. The music had a let loose feeling, from mellow tunes to old school ACDC.
The giant bar is clearly the focal point, boasting over 60 beers and three wines on tap. What’s your pleasure? Wheat and Yeast, Malty and Nutty, Hoppy and Bitter, or Sweet and Sour were all available. The suds are grouped for you to choose your poison. If you want to mix it up, indulge in their famous cocktails. Potions such as May Flowers (bourbon, lavender honey, lemon and grapefruit bitters) and Merchant 75 (gin, Aperol, raspberry syrup, bubbles and grapefruit) won them kudos as Best Bar: Downtown Crossing in the Improper Bostonian and Best New Bar 2014 on Thrillist.
But it’s not all about the drink. A girl’s gotta eat. Executive Chef Matt Foley works with a ton of local farms like Eva’s Garden, Skinnydip, Georges Bank Seafood, Pat Woodbury’s, and Wards Berry Farm, for fresh dishes made with only the tastiest provisions. So we dug in.
We started off our meal with a warm baby beet salad topped with goat cheese crema, smoked pine nuts and arugula oil. The beets are the super stars – just the right softness with a gentle flavor that pairs well with the tangy, almost Greek yogurt-like goat cheese. To accompany the salad, we ordered the smoked sea trout. These thin slices were served with crispy Brussels sprouts (a little too chewy) and Meyer lemon. The overall dish was tasty, but if they left the bitter radish slices in the fridge, we wouldn’t have cried.
As an Italian, I physically cannot turn down pasta. I chose the appetizer version of the fresh Tagliatelli (also served as an entree). With shucked fresh peas, local shrimp boasting just the right snap with each bite, a faint mint, and chunks of bacon, my decision was a solid one. Sidenote: There was a pool of oil at the bottom of the bowl which surprised us, since the dish wasn’t the least bit oily.
When it’s hot, the last thing I want is spicy food. The Merchant’s Stuffed Peppers changed that. Although not the prettiest dish, what it lacked in eye candy it made up for in flavor. The whole peppers stuffed with cool goat cheese and wild mushrooms aren’t for the faint of tastebud. The wild rice bed was nutty and chewy, while the pepper confit draped on top added a crazy spicy kick. While my companion was polishing off his juicy, perfectly cooked Braised Shortribs from Painted Hills Farm, complete with red cabbage, mashed potatoes and horseradish gremolata, he kept trying to swipe a bite. Not happening, my friend. These were all mine.
After all that spice, we needed to sweeten our teeth. With only three desserts available, we chose a painter’s pallet of raspberries and cream dollops with a fruit-layered pastry. This was one tiny after-dinner treat, but it was a nice ending.
When temps hit stupid numbers and you’re looking for refreshing cocktails, farm-fresh dishes, and a respite from the bright sun, come to the dark side. Grab a seat at The Merchant and enjoy.
The Merchant is located at 60 Franklin Street.